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Elizabeth Blackwell

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Elizabeth Blackwell (February 3, 1821 – May 31, 1910) was a British physician, notable as the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States, and the first woman on the Medical Register of the General Medical Council. Blackwell played an important role in both the United States and the United Kingdom as a social and moral reformer, and pioneered in promoting education for women in medicine. Her contributions remain celebrated with the Elizabeth Blackwell Medal, awarded annually to a woman who has made significant contribution to the promotion of women in medicine.Blackwell was initially uninterested in a career in medicine especially after her schoolteacher brought in a bull’s eye to use as a teaching tool. Therefore, she became a schoolteacher in order to support her family. This occupation was seen as suitable for women during the 1800s, however, she soon found it unsuitable for her. Blackwell’s interest in medicine was sparked after a friend fell ill and remarked that, had a female doctor cared for her, she might not have suffered so much. Blackwell began applying to medical schools, and immediately began to endure the prejudice against her sex that would persist throughout her career. She was rejected from each medical school she applied to, except Geneva Medical College, in which the male students voted on Blackwell’s acceptance. In 1847, Blackwell became the first woman to attend medical school in the United States.Blackwell’s inaugural thesis on typhoid fever, published in 1849 the Buffalo Medical Journal, shortly after she graduated, was the first medical article published by a female student from the United States. It portrayed a strong sense of empathy and sensitivity to human suffering, as well as strong advocacy for economic and social justice. This perspective was deemed by the medical community as ”feminine”.Blackwell also founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children with her sister Emily in 1857, and began giving lectures to female audiences on the importance of educating girls. She also played a significant role during the American Civil War organizing nurses.